The recent arrival of Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage for the $27.5m action film Jiu Jitsu, the first to access the country’s new 35% cash rebate, has sparked huge interest in the Mediterranean island from other leading producers searching for shooting locations.
“Nicolas Cage has come to the island and said it’s a great location, and suddenly major producers are calling us to shoot here and the local government is realising this could be a major industry and inward investment opportunity,” Simos Manganis, founder and CEO of Green Olive Films, which provided production services for Jiu Jitsu, tells KFTV.
Dubbed 'Olivewood' by the locals, the growing film and TV industry on the island is making Cyprus an attractive sunny, low-cost alternative to Los Angeles. Indeed, the island is on the same latitude as the US city, so the angle and quality of light is the same, meaning you can shoot something in Cyprus at say 10am, and then another scene at the same time in LA and the shadows cast will be the same.
Cyprus is the third biggest island in the Mediterranean with one of the best climates in the world, enjoying over 300 days of sunshine a year.
It is located conveniently at the eastern end of Europe at the crux of the busy shipping and air routes linking three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa. So it’s well connected with direct flights to all major European cities.
The island boasts an impressive array of filming locations. Productions can shoot at a beautiful sandy beach one minute, and within an hour be in the Troodos mountains or forests, villages, modern cities and even jungles. “We filmed parts of Jiu Jitsu in incredible jungle settings just outside Limassol that resemble the jungles of Malaysia or Burma,” enthuses Manganis.
“Cyprus is a natural film studio”, adds George Campanellas, director general at Invest Cyprus, to KFTV. “We have a rich historical and cultural landscape, which is reflected in the hundreds of archaeological sites scattered throughout the island [including an ancient Odeon in Paphos, Kolossi Castle and the Apollo Hylates temple].”
It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that the landscapes can change depending on the season. “In winter, you’ve got lush green fields and valleys that could double for Switzerland. Put cows there and you’ve got a milk commercial. But then in summer it all goes yellowish and brown,” says Manganis.
Aside from natural locations, Cyprus is also expanding its urban settings. The city of Limassol on the southern coast is proving particularly popular for shoots having just built a luxury marina with 650 berths for yachts, high-end restaurants, villas and shops. And there are some striking skyscrapers rising up on the coastline.
“Across Cyprus, the locations are incredible, accommodation is very cost-effective, especially November to March (low tourist season), transport is cheap, and the food is exceptional and low-priced, which is great for cast and crew catering,” says Andros Achilleos, founder and general manager of Sea Horse Films.
Getting permits to shoot at these various locations is usually straightforward, although there is no one single licensing authority. Production teams must consult relevant authorities and public services, such as the Department of Antuquities, Deputy Ministry of Tourism and Cyprus Police.
Cyprus offers a highly skilled and experienced film workforce, from producers and sound technicians to location managers. “The local crew are really friendly, dedicated and experienced on local and international projects, although for Jiu Jitsu, we had to fly in heads of departments from Greece, and other crew from Europe and the US,” explains Manganis.
“For big projects, international producers will need more time to prepare than they would normally at a more established western location with plenty of infrastructure because Cyprus is an island.”
Although there are no studios at the moment, there is a concerted desire and effort from Invest Cyprus and other local production companies to build some and expand the infrastructure through increased investment. This will be helped by the increased presence of local and international productions on the island and the expanding local crew base.
Cyprus is a small island, so it is easy to get around. You can get from one side of the island to the other within three hours and you can change the scenery from pinewood mountains to sunny beaches within an hour.
The island is perfectly placed close to Europe, the Middle East and Africa, with plenty of flights available from these (and other worldwide) locations into Larnaca, Paphos and Nicosia airports.
Once on the island, there is no railway system, so the best way to get around is by bus or car.
If you want to ship / bring in your own filming equipment, you are advised to contact the Customs and Excise Department: email@example.com.